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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports Media

          CBS Sports has hired Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms as its
     No. 1 NFL broadcast team, according to Stephen Battaglio of
     the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.  Gumbel's final appearance on NBC
     will come this Sunday, when he calls the Heat-Knicks game. 
     He will join CBS on March 1, and serve as studio host for
     its NCAA basketball coverage.  Jim Nantz will anchor CBS'
     NFL pregame show (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1/30).  CBS also
     signed former NBC announcer Randy Cross, who will either
     work games or be in the studio (Mike Bruton, PHILADELPHIA
     DAILY NEWS, 1/30).  CNN/SI's Peter King reported that CBS
     "is trying to get" Cowboys FB Daryl Johnston and Chiefs RB
     Marcus Allen "to retire and join their 1998 telecast team. 
     Allen is leaning toward TV; Johnston leaning toward playing
     another year" ("CNN/SI," 1/29).  In related news, NEWSDAY's
     Steve Zipay writes that CBS Exec Producer Terry Ewert "isn't
     ruling out any ideas" for the NFL pregame show, "including
     hiring a woman."  Zipay: "Ewert's intentions are intriguing
     and serious -- industry sources said CBS pursued ESPN's
     Bonnie Bernstein, but ESPN would not release her from her
     contract, which has a year remaining" (NEWSDAY, 1/30).

          In N.Y., Richard Sandomir examines Cablevision's
     ownership of the TV rights to all N.Y. sports teams except
     NFL teams.  Cablevision Exec VP Marc Lustgarten, on how the
     new partnership with Fox Sports Net will affect viewers:
     "For now, whatever's been on MSG and Fox Sports New York
     will continue on basic."  Sandomir: "Lustgarten's key words
     were 'for now.' ... Clearly, basic pricing is not forever"
     (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30).  Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman: "With Fox,
     Cablevision and MSG all aligned, fans better start paying
     close attention and get ready to speak out.  On Wednesday,
     Dolan said it was only a matter of time before you, the fan,
     will be paying a premium price to see games of almost every
     pro sports franchise in town" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/30).
          EXAMINING ISIAH: In Toronto, Marty York writes that the
     "transition from basketball to broadcasting has been bumpy
     for Isiah Thomas and media critics in the [U.S.] are
     beginning to wonder whether NBC erred" in hiring him.  "NBA
     on NBC" Producer David Neal: "He has to refine his
     mechanics."  Neal also "agreed that Thomas needs to refrain
     from repeating himself and, at times, should sound more
     excited."  Neal: "Overall, though, I'm pleased with him"
     (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/30)....Comcast SportsNet will premiere
     "Sixers Sunday Morning Jam" this Sunday.  The 76ers magazine
     show is produced by 76ers VP/Marketing & Comm. Dave Coskey,
     Dir of Marketing & Comm. Lara Price and Dir of PR Jodi
     Silverman, in association with NJ-based MediaWorks
     Communications Inc. (Comcast SportsNet).

          The NHL has licensed Total Sports to produce "Total
     Hockey," a comprehensive hockey encyclopedia.  The book will
     contain complete playing records of every player in league
     history.  It will be co-published with KC-based Andrews
     McMeel Publishing, and is expected to run around 1,600
     pages.  Look for "Total Hockey" this September (NHL).
          NOTES: The Source plans to launch a sports title in
     September called The Source Sports, which "will also have an
     urban hiphop orientation" (MEDIAWEEK, 1/26)....Two new books
     on NASCAR: Ballantine publishes "Wide Open: Days and Nights
     On the NASCAR Tour" by ESPN Magazine's Shaun Assael, while
     Wiley Books has released "The NASCAR Way: The Business That
     Drives The Sport," by Robert Hagstrom (THE DAILY).

          The following lists ratings from last weekend's network     sporting events.  All times are EST.  The numbers are     gathered from the networks (THE DAILY).
EVENT DATE NET TIME RAT/SHR
IRL: Indy 200
1/24
ABC
12:30-2:30pm
1.8/5
Men's Senior Skins Game
1/24
ABC
2:30-5:00pm
2.6/7
European Figure Skating Champs
1/24
ABC
5:00-6:00pm
3.9/6
NCAA Basketball: Duke-Virginia
1/24
CBS
noon-2:00pm
1.9/6
NCAA Basketball: Regional Action
1/24
CBS
2:00-4:00pm
1.7/5
NCAA Basketball: Regional Action
1/24
CBS
4:00-6:00pm
1.7/4
"NBA on NBC": NYK-DET/LAL-SEA
1/24
NBC
3:30-6:00pm
3.8/10
"NHL on Fox": Regional Action
1/24
FOX
3:00-6:00pm
1.7/5
Men's Senior Skins Game
1/25
ABC
1:30-4:00pm
2.5/6
NCAA Basketball: Regional Action
1/25
ABC
4:00-6:00pm
1.2/3
NCAA Basketball: Mich.-Illinois
1/25
CBS
2:00-4:00pm
1.7/4
NCAA Basketball: Regional Action
1/25
CBS
4:00-6:00pm
1.9/4
"NBA on NBC": UTAH-CHI
1/25
NBC
1:00-3:30pm
6.6/16
Super Bowl Pre-game Show
1/25
NBC
3:30-6:00pm
15.4/31
Super Bowl XXXII: GB-DEN
1/25
NBC
6:00-10:00pm
44.5/67

          The state of sportswriting is examined by Bob Drury of
     MEN'S JOURNAL, who writes that it "has become a dead-end
     job, the buggy-whip profession of the twenty-first century. 
     Fiber optics are killing it."  Boston Globe Sports Editor
     Don Skwar, on today's athletes: "They don't need us as much
     as they need ESPN or Nike.  Their time is not our time." 
     N.Y. Times sports columnist Harvey Araton: "Sportswriters
     today are like whiskey.  We get blamed for a lot of things
     we didn't do."  Araton, on the inaccessibility of players:
     "Now you're never allowed into practice with them.  They've
     all got charters, so you're not on the plane.  You're left
     with a choice: gangbang press conferences or grabbing
     whatever tidbits you can as athletes flee the locker room
     toward the team bus. ... Today, there's just such a
     difference between us and them that the only way to pierce
     the veil is to, essentially, be a TV partner.  Ahmad Rashad
     wants to do a puff piece on Michael Jordan?  Fine.  Ahmad
     won't hurt him.  Hell, he's the host of Jordan's off-season
     sales tour.  Otherwise, [NBA Commissioner David] Stern
     doesn't want reporters around" (MEN'S JOURNAL, 2/98 issue). 
          CIRCUS CIRCUS: The Globe's Skwar, on the depth and
     breadth of coverage: "It's true, we're not driving the
     beast, the beast is already driven.  It's driven by
     Entertainment Tonight and Hard Copy and talk radio and a
     coverage of gossip that sometimes, I admit, I find
     absolutely ridiculous.  I shudder when I look back and see
     some of the unsavory things we did during the Tonya Harding-
     Nancy Kerrigan affair.  Making a reporter stand all night in
     Kerrigan's driveway.  Jeez."  In a sidebar, MEN's JOURNAL
     takes an informal poll to determine the top sportswriters in
     the U.S.  Twenty-one are named (MEN'S JOURNAL, 2/98 issue).
          ON THE BEAT: WASHINGTONIAN magazine reports that
     Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon was offered
     more than $300,000 and a signing bonus to go to the Chicago
     Tribune.  He remained at the Post, and in doing so may "have
     topped $200,000" in his annual salary (WASHINGTONIAN, 2/98).